Reader’s Choice (Apple-Trees-Woodland): The Man who Would

The Man who Would

by Adele Evershed

The girl seated in the shadows of the bookshop was surprisingly noticeable even though she was clad in black, looking just like a shadow herself. There was a touch of colour at her throat where an iridescent brooch nestled like an exotic beetle in the nest of her jugular notch. 

When she rose and left the shop I grabbed her seat, still warm, and felt a sharp sting.  Fumbling underneath my thigh I pulled out a brooch. A mellow voice said, “That would be mine!” I squinted up and saw the girl holding out a slender hand towards me. “Oh yes,” I said as the bloom of acne on my cheek pulsated like a fresh brand. Even now, so much later, the whorl-like scar reminds me of how I was utterly possessed by her from the beginning.

 She studied me with pale eyes. They had the same milky quality as my Gran’s even though to look at her she could have been no more than twenty. “Your brooch is interesting. Who is the man?” I asked. “The Green Man,” she replied, “The keeper of the forests.” With this she offered me her hand and I shook it wildly so the sleeve of her blouse fell back. I saw a pattern of raised parallel lines, faint and white, on her arm. I didn’t know what I was looking at but I did know I longed to run my fingers over those fragile, silvery marks like a strange sort of braille and read her like one of my books. It was a romantic vision and once she told me of their origin it was far too late for me to save her or myself. You have to know this was an age ago and if given my time again I would be unable to change anything. 

We continued to meet at the bookshop talking about books and how sometimes it only takes a sentence to change a life. Eventually I screwed up the courage and asked her out.

I had planned a picnic so we could be far away from other people. We wandered towards the ancient forest and sat between the roots of a dying oak tree. When we had finished the sandwiches she offered me a flask and of course I took it. I was so young, so green. It didn’t take long; foliage sprouted out of my mouth, my arms twisted into branches and my tears watered the roots. Before she left she told me the stories of each cut on her arm, each a mark for a soul who came before. It was her task to find the worthy so the tree could be reborn and in this way humanity could be protected. Finally, she told me I would no longer feel mortal but as a kindness she could grant me one memory to relive over the next long years. 

The girl seated in the shadows….

Adele Evershed is Welsh. She now lives in Connecticut and writes poetry and prose when she is not teaching.

Adele has been Reader’s Choice once before, you can read her poem Leap Day here, and her story Underground was published in our print and ebook anthology Museum Collection.

Our Reader said:

I could really see the whole scene, their first encounter, the shadows against the emerald of the brooch, I sat with them underneath the old oak. Such an original story with so much mystery. 

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